In pursuit of happiness


This week the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered “the most austere budget in a generation”.  He had to.  The UK has run up an enormous debt in excess of £900 billion, or 62% of GDP.  This has to be paid for and fast if we are to avoid disastrous consequences for the UK economy. 

News of Britains economic gloom is everywhere.  Even the World Cup doesnt escape scrutiny as the nations commentators grapple with how much of a contribution to GDP England flags on cars make.  We are obsessed by tangible measurement.  GDP and quarterly economic growth figures seem to be the cause of much of this obsession.

Are we measuring the wrong thing?  Business has for a long time been based on performance against tangible, quantifiable metrics.  Business is all about the numbers, performance against budget, the p and l, the strength of the balance sheet, returns to shareholders.  This is the language of business, but are we speaking the right language? 

Little it would appear gets done in business unless there is a metric that can be applied to measure perceived success.  However it matters not how good the product or service, if you don’t have fantastically engaged people through which to deliver to customers to achieve great things then all the measurements in the world count for little. 

Happy employees will do incredible things to contribute to the success of not only the organisation orbusiness but indeed to society as a whole.  Should we therefore be looking at ways in which we can measure happiness? 

“Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted” – Albert Einstein. 

I was inspired to write this by Chip Conley, founder and CEO of Hotel Group Joie de Vivre.  His TedTalk “Measuring what makes life worthwhile” focused on exactly this topic and I make no apology for taking much of his material in this piece.  I could not be in stronger agreement.  Check his presentation out via the following url;

http://www.ted.com/talks/chip_conley_measuring_what_makes_life_worthwhile.html

Business is all about people.  Life is all about people.  Somewhere along the way this appears to have been forgotten amongst the numbers and a constant quest for tangible measurement. 

In Chips presentation he quotes a recent study whereby 94% of global business leaders recognised the intangible elements in their business, such as intellectual property, brand loyalty and corporate culture were the most critical to their success.  Included in this is employee happiness.  A happy employee is a productive one. 

For success in business, leaders need to create an environment that encourages people to flourish, to communicate, to interact, to get involved, to have fun.  The more we measure the more stress and pressure we introduce.  Conley quotes the King of Bhutan who aged 17 in 1972 introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness to try and remove the obsession with GDP as the only real measure of success.  He quotes Robert Kennedy who said of GDP

“It measures everything in short except that which makes life worthwhile”. 

We need our Business Leaders to create environments in which people can be people, not slaves to numbers.  We need our political leaders to do the same.  We need to be inspiring and to be inspired.  Lets stop obsessing with measurement and get balance and perspective back in to the world.  Lets start having fun again and watch people and as a consequence economies flourish.

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Filed under Careers, Employee Engagement

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